In 2010 Avanti announced their return to the design and manufacture of dual suspension mountain bikes with the launch of the XC/ Race Vapour and the Trail/All-Mountain Torrent. Both bikes are well thought-out and offer great performance and value. In fact I still consider the Torrent to be one of the best bikes I’ve reviewed in the last few years.
When asked what was next, the team at Avanti couldn’t—or wouldn’t—give us a straight answer, but did confirm that there was likely to be a third bike added to the range in the not too distant future. Well, the future has now arrived. Meet the Vapour 29. I am by no means a 29er convert. This has very little to do with wheel size, but more to do with the fact that I prefer bikes that have relatively slack geometry, sit low, and have around 140–150mm of travel front and rear. Few 29ers, to date, fit this bill. Does the Vapour 29? Well, the answer to this question is a little complicated.
Based purely on specs, its geometry suggests the bike is more cross-country orientated. But a build weight of approximately 30 pounds (sans dropper post) is slightly too tubby to be considered seriously as a pure cross-country bike. Out on the trail the ride confirms this. With the Fox 34 fork set at 120mm (to match the rear) the Vapour felt agile and climbed well but was sometimes a little nervous at speed and on steep descents, a trait common to cross-country orientated bikes. Although the weight was barely noticeable on the trail, the bike didn’t have the snappy attitude that lighter race-bred steeds often exhibit. After riding the Vapour for a few weeks in this setup I’d come to the conclusion that, like a troubled teenager, it was thoroughly confused about just what it was meant to be.
So, like a concerned parent, I was becoming a little disillusioned with the Vapour, as it had promised so much potential. It shares the fantastic Horst link rear suspension of its siblings, and a relatively long travel rear shock provides buttery smooth traction and that deceptively bottomless feel. It has a well engineered frame with tapered head tube, 142mm x 12mm rear axle, and excellent detailing and finishing. But it just wasn’t inspiring to ride.
Thankfully this review doesn’t end here. At the midpoint of my time on the Vapour we decided to start tweaking the setup. First we extended the fork to 140mm, which slackened the head angle out a notch. We then set up the rear shock with a little more sag (roughly 45 percent). The combined effect was immediate; the Vapour seemed to mature overnight. It still climbed as competently as it had previously, but it was now also a pleasure to ride on the descents. Initial concerns that running so much sag would spoil the feel of the rear suspension were unfounded. The shock never even batted an eyelid, fending off hits big and small with ease. In fact if anything, the extra sag improved the feel of the rear and also increased the already impressive traction. We continued to experiment by installing a Cane Creek AngleSet and further slackening the head angle by one degree.
With the Vapour finally set up to my liking I was now able to appreciate the familiar traits it shares with its smaller wheeled, longer travel sibling, the Torrent. The bike had finally developed some personality. It was fun to ride, a great climber, and left me eager in anticipation of the chance to head down.
Out of the box the Vapour seems to suffer from trying to be all things to all people. As a result it’s neither a great cross-country rig, nor an inspiring allmountain/ trail bike. If, like me, you’re looking to be tempted into the world of 29ers by a bike that will take you anywhere and everywhere, and leave you with a shit-eating grin on your face when heading downhill, then your first impressions of the Vapour might not be favourable. But take the time to tweak the suspension and geometry to your preferences and you’ll be richly rewarded. LEIF ROY